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Late nights at White Lotus

Times Staff Writer

The only Saturday-night reservation I could get at White Lotus, a new Hollywood restaurant with attached club-lounge, was for 10:30 p.m. Hey, in Spain that would be an early bird dinner.

But who could I get to come with me at that hour? Most people want to dine at 7:30 or 8. Two friends susceptible to coercion signed on, reluctantly, and I found another friend who knew someone who’d just be getting off work at that hour.

We converged on the place promptly at 10:30 p.m. to find a conga line of cars, all headed for the adjacent parking lot. Cell phones pressed to their ears, drivers and their passengers were making sure someone knew they were at the new hot spot. After paying $10 ransom upfront to the valet, we headed for the door.

Behind a wall, two tents (white, of course) soared 30 feet high. As we approached the entrance, we could hear the thump of the music and the roar of the voices inside.

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A velvet rope held back a crowd, but with the magic of a bona fide reservation, we sailed on in.

Have no fear; White Lotus, the latest venture from the entrepreneurs behind the Sunset Room farther south on Cahuenga Boulevard, has been feng shui-ed. But just in case, eight wooden sculptures of Chinese soldiers line the foyer. To the right stands the club, which was not quite happening at this hour. To the left, a clubby sushi bar with backlighted shelves displays a formidable collection of sake bottles.

We were seated in the patio beneath one of the tents. We could still barely hear one another, but the waiter was undaunted by the din.

Hiroji Obayashi, from the popular Hirozen, and Andrew Pastore, of the Sunset Room, have put together a Euro-Asian menu that, to judge from this single visit, is a cut above most restaurant-clubs’. Kozo Terajima is the sushi chef.

The sushi and sashimi are quite decent. I liked the Tasmanian salmon tartar spiked with hot pepper and cooled with cucumber and kaffir lime leaf. Yellowtail “tornado” came ornamented with wonton chips and a spicy mayonnaise. A martini glass held a delicious chilled potato soup garnished with sea urchin and caviar.

Most people seemed to be going for the sushi or a slew of appetizers. It would be a shame, though, to miss the deep-fried whole red snapper for two. It’s much better-looking and tastier than a catfish.

There’s also a Thai take on bouillabaisse laced with coconut milk and glass noodles and an array of shellfish.

Like Katana on Sunset Strip, White Lotus is into sake and boasts an entire page of choices -- more than 50, from the house brand, Hakutsuru, served hot ($5 for a small carafe), up to the elegant Otokoyama “Dai Ginjo” at $190 for a 720 milliliter bottle.

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At half past 11, as tables around us emptied, waiters started stacking the chairs, readying the place for the hordes of club-goers outside. Taking a break, the chefs sat on the edge of the patio’s Buddha fountain and had a smoke. Buddha didn’t seem to mind, as he gazed down upon the giddy goings-on at White Lotus.

*

White Lotus

Where: 1743 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood.

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When: Open from 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday (adjoining club is open from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.). Full bar. Valet parking.

Cost: Appetizers, $4 to $14; salads, $5.50 to $17.50; main courses, $14.50 to $32.

Info: (323) 463-0060, www.whitelotushollywood.com.


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